Don’t confuse Pacific Harbour & Beqa Island
I’m lumping Pacific Harbour and Beqa Island together because geographically there are quite close to each other. In fact Pacific Harbour is the gateway to Beqa Island. (If you zoom out on map below, you’ll see how close they are).
Located a short boat ride from each other (and both close to Suva), Pacific Harbour & Beqa Island couldn’t be more different in character. The former is a beach resort complex while the latter is a Fijian community and the home of firewalking. Beqa has also become a diver’s mecca. The latter is surrounded by a huge barrier reef and lies 8 km off the coast of Viti Levu.
About Pacific Harbour
Originally developed in the 1970s as a residential canal subdivision catering to both expats and well-heeled locals, Pacific Harbour is located 50 km from Suva, about an hour by automobile. The complex, which may be considered a suburb of Suva, has evolved into a destination in its own right. In addition to the residences, there are hotels, an excellent golf course and an “Arts Village” with shops, supermarket, restaurants, ATM machine and other amenities. You might think of it as a mini-Denarau without guards at the gate.
Pacific Harbour Activities
For the visitor, Pacific Harbour is a jumping-off spot to a number of ocean and land-based attractions that have become exceeding popular. First and foremost, offshore is the Beqa (pronounced Beng-a) Passage with Beqa Island and Lagoon, a 45-minute boat ride away which has some of the best dive sites in Fiji.
It’s also the home of the Shark Reef Marine Reserve.
This is the first protected marine sanctuary for sharks in Fiji. The reef has a regular population of 8 different shark species including whitetip reef sharks, blacktip reef sharks, tawny nurse sharks, grey reef sharks, sicklefin lemon sharks, silvertip sharks, bull sharks and tiger sharks. Hammerhead sharks and manta rays are less common visitors to the reef.
There are several dive operations based in Pacific Harbour such as Beqa Adventure Divers, Ultimate Shark Encounters and Aqua-Trek that will take you out to the lagoon to see the sharks up close and personal. There are also fishing charters (Freedive Fiji Charters), snorkeling tours (Fiji Snorkeling Tour in Bega Lagoon) a Jet ski “Safari” and day cruises to Yanuca Island, just off shore.
In addition to golf, land-bound activities include a zip line through the forest canopy, Off-road tours on 4WD and ATVs and nature and wildlife tours to the interior which include visits to water falls, river tubing, river rafting, village tours and other activities.
There’s also world-class surfing in Frigates Passage on the outer edge of Beqa Lagoon. It’s considered one of the top three breaks in Fiji, the others being Cloudbreak and Restaurants’ off the Mamanuca Islands).
Pacific Harbour Accommodations
There are four large properties in the Pacific Harbour area and another three within a 15 mile radius that we can recommend.
Of the four in the Pacific Harbour environs, Nanuku Auberge Resort is a 5 star boutique property with 18 rooms that begin at around US$700 per night. Billing itself as the “newest luxury resort on the mainland in Fiji”, it’s received excellent reviews from Trip Advisor.
About Beqa Island
Beqa (pronounced Benga) is located offshore from the Coral Coast and is only fifteen square kilometers. It’s a 45-minute boat ride from Pacific Harbour to the island. It has no roads, no towns and only a few isolated villages scattered around the perimeter. The island is surrounded by one of the largest barrier reefs in the world and lies 8 km south of Viti Levu, about 130 km from Nadi.
As alluded to above there’s a world of difference between Beqa and Pacific Harbour, a scant 8 km away. The advantage of staying here is that you’ll experience an authentic sense of Fijian culture and hospitality.
It has two claims to fame–world class diving and the traditional home of Fijian fire walking.
Beqa Lagoon Resort
Beqa Lagoon Resort has 12 well appointed beach front Bures scattered among coconut and papaya trees. All have private verandas with plunge pools. In addition, there are four 2-bedroom suites, and 9 bures situated around a koi pond and lush gardens. All units have air conditioning and ceiling fans. There are no phones or TVs in the units to disturb the peace and serenity of your vacation time. Internet is available in bures and main areas of the resort.
The grounds are carefully landscaped and behind the property the land slopes into a tropical forest where you can visit a waterfall.
The Bure Koloa,with its soaring thatched roof reaching more than 80 feet, is the center of resort life. It is here that guests gather to dine as well as take in liquid refreshment, conversation and plan the next day’s adventure.
Dinners feature an appetizer and two main course choices for dinner. The menu changes daily with choice of fresh fish, chicken and other ‘turf’ options rotating. All are prepared from local ingredients.
The staff, mostly people from the neighboring villages of Ravi Ravi and Rakua, are friendly and accommodating.
A luxurious infinity pool borders the coral sand beach where you can snorkel and dive right off shore. Evenings are filled with music from a local Bula Band and other cultural events such as meke (traditional dance), kava ceremony and the sacred firewalking ceremony that the island is famous for.
Activities such as kayaking, stand up paddle boarding, guided hiking treks and daily cultural activities are included in all the vacation packages. Scuba Diving, Deep Sea Fishing, Surfing, Spa Treatments and guided boat tours are also available.
Beqa Lagoon is the submerged crater of an extinct volcano, and Beqa Island is where the lip of the crater breaks the surface. The diving within the lagoon is relatively shallow (less than 100′) with walls and deep water on the outside. The lagoon is nutrient-rich so hard and soft coral and small reef life proliferate. In addition, there are a fair amount of larger pelagic fish, turtles, etc.
Out toward Frigate Pass you can see mantas, eagle rays and passing humpback whales in season. The water temperatures range from an average of 78 F in the winter (Jul-Aug) to 82 F in the summer (Feb-Mar). A 3-5 mm wet suit is recommended in the winter and a skin-3 mm suit for the summer.
The newest offering is a shark dives at the Cathedral dive site. You’ll see over 9 species including 15-18 foot Tiger sharks. Once a year Beqa offers a “Shark Fest” where you can learn more about these fascinating creatures and become “shark ambassadors”.
Beqa Lagoon Resort’s in-house dive operation is a 5 STAR PADI facility that offers classes from Bubble Maker up through Divemaster. Open water referrals are accepted from any agency if you want to finish off your certification while at the resort. They can provide rental equipment (mask, fins, snorkel, BCD, regulator and wet-suits) but it is suggested that you bring your own equipment. If you do want to rent your gear, it is a good idea to let them know at the time of your booking.
Vacation packages start at $659 USD pp and include round trip ground and boat transfers from Nadi airport to Beqa, 3 nights deluxe accommodations, meals and tax.
They have three 50′ mono-hull dive boats with covered areas that carry up to 20 divers each, which come in very handy to accommodate groups and divers who want to go to different sites. All 3 are covered and have heads on board, and they all feature water level entries and exits. The guides (who must be rated at least as Rescue Divers) have an in-water maximum of 6 divers each. Weights, belts and aluminum 80 tanks are provided.
Distance from most dive sites
While there are over 100 dive sites inside and outside the lagoon, the majority are within 30 minutes of the resort. There are many within 5-10 minutes, and the most distant are about a 45 minute boat ride. There is unlimited shore diving and snorkeling right off the beach. Snorkelers can join the dive boat on a space available basis. You can see longnose, filefish, clownfish, lots of small tropicals, some small tridacnas, lots of Christmas tree worms.
Owned and operated by Brad and Sue de Geus since 2008, Lalati Resort is a boutique, ocean side property. Lalati attracts divers but it’s by no means a pure dive resort. Non-divers will be comfortable and will have plenty to do. Management likes to think of Lalati as an adventure/honeymoon type destination–a luxury property for active people.
It has 16 units comprised of villas, suites and cottages. Three are perched on a hillside, and 13 are placed in a lush tropical garden setting at sea level. The Deluxe Villas, Honeymoon Villas and Premiere Beachfront Honeymoon Suite are on the ocean side, all with expansive sea views. The Cottages and the Garden Honeymoon Suite are hillside accommodations.
The least expensive are the cottages. All offer king sized beds, large sitting areas, large lanais, coffee/tea making facilities, and ocean views. They have ceiling fans but are the only units that do not have AC.
Each ocean front villa has 2 large bedrooms (that can accommodate up to four persons) with a king size bed in the main bedroom a second bedroom with a queen. There is a comfortable sitting area, with tiled bath and shower, and a large, covered veranda (with hammock) on the veranda. (Sea view cottages sleep two).
Honeymoon Villas are the newest accommodations, each have its own private gazebo with hammock and table and chairs. Private outdoor showers are open to the sky and there are 4-poster beds, air con, and floor to ceiling sliding glass doors.
There are also two luxurious honeymoon suites with coconut wood 4-poster king bed on a polished mahogany wood platforms. Both are very private, with sitting rooms, over-sized bathrooms, Jacuzzi, day beds, and outdoor showers.
Breakfast options are plentiful. You can choose from omelets, pancakes, French toast and homemade muesli. There are daily breakfast specials such as steak hash or heuvos rancheros.
Lunch and dinner have two choices. Lunch is either a salad or a meat/fish/vegetarian entrée. (Individuals with special dietary requests are accommodated). Since they purchased the property Brad and Sue have slowly made improvements and will be renovating the ocean front villas.
Rates begin (for a 3 night stay) US$1320 (double) and go up to $2835. Rates include transfers, accommodation, 3 meals, kayaking and other non-motorized resort activities, including snorkeling, hot tub, pool, and yoga facilities. (They even have yoga mats).
The Loloma Spa, a separate building on the property is staffed by native Fijians who have extensive experience in the healing arts. Holistic treatments are derived from indigenous plants, locally gathered products such as papaya, pineapple, mango and guava, pure virgin coconut oil, sea salt, raw cane sugar, seaweed, local nuts, star fruit, leaves from the banana and ti plants. These are used in body wraps, scrubs, facials and signature massages.
Activities revolve, as one would expect, around the ocean. Diving the Beqa lagoon is superb. Soft coral are both numerous and come in a variety of colors. The biodiversity is huge and if you’re observant you’ll see just about every species in the fish book. The dive operation here differentiates itself from the other Beqa property by sheer volume of visitors. Lalati is a small resort and by definition their dive boat is not going to take large parties.
In addition to the diving there’s a variety of activities. The guided kayak trip to Bat Island, an islet surrounded by thick ring of mangroves, several kilometers from the resort, was my favorite. Thousands of huge fruit bats inhabit this tiny piece of real estate and with a little bit of audio prodding they alight from the trees and take flight. There are also waterfall treks, mountain treks, village visits, herbal medicine walks (where the use of local plants are demonstrated), snorkel safaris and private island picnics on Storm Island (aka Nanuku). You can also do Mainland sightseeing excursions to Suva and adventure tours that include boat trips up the Navua River, Jet skis, zip lining or even white water rafting.
The island of Beqa is the traditional home of Fijian firewalking.
Although it’s done occasionally on Viti Levu, the family connection with the participants is almost always linked to Beqa. It was once strictly a ritual for and by Fijians but in recent years is performed almost always for vulagi (visitors).